Today we're looking at the Blackmagic 7-inch Video Assist. This would have to be my favorite piece of camera gear that isn't a camera.
I bought the 5-inch video assist for my DSLR a few years ago, and it was a huge step up from using the back of camera screen. Last summer Blackmagic have a sale, and the seven-inch one was only $500. Now it's really hard to go back to the 5 inches.
The larger monitor is so much nicer to work from. If you've never pulled focus or operated from a 7-inch monitor, it’s a marked improvement. You'll never have focus problems. Going back to the days when we used to try and focus a camera on the back of the DSLR, the tiny little 1.5-inch screen, it was a nightmare. There's no way you can tell whether or not the pin lights in someone's eyes a sharp of such a small screen, it just doesn’t have the resolution. On a larger monitor, it's a piece of cake. You get so much better an idea of the image and the color.
• SDI in and out
• HDMI in and out
• Mini XLR audio in and out (which is handy for 5d mark 3 where the HDMI out doesn't carry any audio)
• Timecode in
The monitor records externally in 4k 10-bit pro-res in a variety of popular flavors – 444, 442, HQ, LT and others, and it does this to cheap SD cards, not the expensive CFast cards that new cameras are using.
The Video Assist records in 4k, while the actual display is still 2k, it has more than enough resolution to do what it needs to do. The unit also has a USB port that allows you to load in look-up tables or LUTS, that lets you customize the image that you’re seeing if you’re shooting in a LOG mode, as most cinema cameras do now.
As far as monitoring the image, the Video Assist has false color, waveform, histogram, vector gram, grids, and guides. It has everything that you could want in a monitor.
The unit does have a few downsides, but these can be worked around. It eats power like you wouldn't believe. Unless you use external power, you will find yourself carrying about a dozen Canon LP6 batteries if you want to get through a day’s shooting. The size of the monitor is also not that small. If you have to carry it around all day, you will feel the weight of it. SmallHD makes great monitors that are noticeably smaller, but they are three times the
The power button is something that got a lot of complaints from users. It's not the most convenient location or the most usable design. It’s a little-recessed button that you hold down for 2 seconds to turn on or off the unit. There is also a fan that emits a small hum, but unless you place is right next to the mic, you shouldn’t hear it. I did have an issue once where I mounted it on the same stand as the mic, and the vibration carried through and was audible, but that was an easy fix.
The unit itself is plastic, but it has this great metal exterior that runs around the entire frame, much like an iPhone case. It has quarter-twenty mounts built into to this cage, three in the top and three in the bottom.
Another great feature is that the monitor auto rotates. If you’re set and need to swing the display upside down it, it will automatically adjust the image.
People who’ve worked with other monitors know that there is nothing more annoying than having to go through the options of the monitor upside down trying to image.
All in all, the product works amazingly well for the price. It goes to show when someone like Blackmagic comes along and offers more features than other camera manufacturers for much less money; it disrupts the industry and forces all the other camera manufacturers to innovate or be left behind.